Archive for the ‘sustainable energy’ Category

Hinkley Point C

July 28, 2016

Hinkley Point C will cost 18 billion euros.

Correction, Hinkley Point C  has an estimated cost of 18 billion euros. Large infrastructure projects have a nasty habit of being over time and over budget. This is true of EDF’s latest project in France.

18 billion euros is larger than the capital value of EDF. Major shareholder in EDF is the French government. If Hinkley Point C proves to be, as many suspect, a White Elephant, it will destroy the French government.

The French Unions are oposed to Hinkley Point C and are considering mounting a legal challenge.

The new UK government is having second thoughts.

The price of electricity from Hinkley Point C is guaranteed for the next thirty-five years at double the current price of electricity.

The price of electricity from renewables has been halving every 18 months.

The offshore wind farms Siemens plan to build in the North Sea will deliver electricity at much lower price than Hinkley Point C

Hinkley Point C is a disaster and must be stopped.

Proponents correctly say we need reliable sources of clean energy. That is why we must push ahead with renewables, the more we have, the more reliable, as not reliant upon the unreliability of a  few sources.  Also resilient.

We must follow a Soft Energy Path, one wheres sources are matched to usage.

Nuclear power is hard energy, it is also very brittle.

installation of rooftop solar panels

installation of rooftop solar panels

Last week, my neighbour installed 14 solar panels on his south facing roof. Speaking to the contractors, they said peak output (on a good day when the sun is shining) is 3 kW.

Imagine if every house had solar panels, if new build was mandatory to have solar panels.

Inshore wind farms have been a disaster. Wealthy landowners reap the subsidies. Or did

We need to create community owned local area grids. Into which feed renewables guaranteed a fair price. Consumers would pay a  fair price. Any surplus energy would be fed to other local are grids via a publicly owned National Grid.  Any monetary surplus would either be fed back into the local grid or used to finance community projects, watering of the collaborative commons.

EU pushed diesel, thanks to lobbying by VW (the same VW that rigged emission tests). Net result nearly ten thousand deaths a year in London due to air pollution from toxic diesel.

In US and Japan, a different route of hybrid and electric cars.

One of the problems with electricity supply from renewables, is matching supply to demand. Electricity from the sun  during the day when demand also peaks. Wind blows at night when demand is low

Surplus generation, could be, at cheaper rate via smart meters, used to charge electric cars. Electric cars when not in use, with fully charged batteries, could be used when peak demand exceeds supply. Smart meters can also use the electricity for low grade heat, for example water heating and space heating, where being cut off for a short while does not impact on the user (especially if have manual override).

A couple of weeks ago, a useless report on abuse by the Big Six, a useless report that cost millions to compile. A couple of their worthless recommendations was better use of price comparison sites (better called price fixing sites as paid by suppliers to set up deals) and if consumers had not recently change supplier, add them to a database to receive junk mail from suppliers.

One measure at a stroke would improve the situation, eliminate standing charges, a fixed rate per kW-H, or maybe two rates, one a special cheap rate when surplus exceeds supply (requiring smart meters).

There are no standing charges when paying for petrol, there should be no standing charges when buying electricity.

We do not need to nationalise the Big Six, introduce community owned and controlled local grids, and the Big Six would be driven out of business, as unable to compete.

Post-Brexit, we need investment in green infrastructure, investment in publicly owned railways, in locally owned and controlled electricity grids. What we do not need is bad infrastructure, HS2, Hinkley Point C, expansion of London City Airport or additional runways at Heathrow and Gatwick.

In Transition 2.0

January 23, 2014

People are brainwashed into being consumers, when they are are not consuming, they sit like zombies before widescreen TVs, the modern day soma of our times, where they receive yet more brainwashing.

The news before Christmas, was how much are people consuming, is it enough, after Christmas how much had they consumed, was it enough?

Is that all we are, is that all there is to life, endless, mindless consumers? It does not lead to happiness or wellbeing, quite the contrary, it leads to unhappiness, leading to more consuming, the junkie trying to get the next fix. Nor is it good for the planet. We are being hit by environmental crisis every day, and they are becoming more frequent and more extreme.

In the long run, it is not good for the economy, as unconstrained growth never is, it leads to boom and bust,

We have economic crisis, caused by the the banks, being used as an excuse for austerity, which is merely a cover for Shock Doctrine, slash and burn of public services and welfare, further transference of wealth from the poor to the rich.

The richest 85 people in the world have amassed as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion. That is a handful of people who could easily travel on a double-decker bus, not that they ever would, have as much wealth as the poorest half of the word’s population.

Is this fair?

Travelling around, I find people are increasingly saying no, enough is enough, the 99% have had enough.

The one thing that communities have learnt, when they put their mind to it, are more than happy and capable of running their own affairs, they do not need corrupt politicians and global corporations, telling them how to think, what to do, what to wear, what to eat.

Community run pubs are successful, those run by pubcos, or to be more accurate bled to death by pubcos, then sold off for redevelopment, are not.

Using the Localism Act, communities can register their pubs as an Asset of Community Value, then should the pubco try to dispose of the pub for redevelopment, the local community has the right to buy and six months within which to raise the money.

Transition Heathrow transformed a derelict market garden, to the benefit of the local community.

Communities have been abandoned. Their only use was as a cash cow.

The Tumbledown Dick is an old coaching inn dating from the 1720s. Once a popular live music venue, it has been abandoned and allowed to fall into disrepair. The local community wished to buy it, turn it into a community run arts venue. They were shafted by their local council, who preferred to see it demolished for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s

A common reaction of visitors to North Laine in Brighton, or Totnes in Devon, or Sincil Street, The Strait, Steep Hill in Lincoln, is why is my town not like this why do we not have quirky little shops, character?

Lincolnshire Co-op, aided and abetted by the City Council, is wishing to destroy Sincil Street for a shopping centre.

Quirky little shops, usually family owned, recycle money within the local economy, increasing the value of that spent. Global corporations drain money out of a local economy, usually dodge tax too, as we see with Starbucks.

Quality local shops bring people into an area. Other local shops benefit. Money spent in the local shops, gets recycled within the local economy.

Market Rasen was a failing market town. The local shops, got together with each other and the local community, put on markets, craft and arts fairs, opened up empty shops as pop up shops, spruced the area up. Market Rasen is now a success story.

To look at the opposite end of the spectrum, Aldershot and Farnborough, where the local council has a policy of ethnic cleansing of local businesses, net result, two dead soulless towns.

Greening Alton grows food in public space. A green patch at a road junction, Alton Station. Passers by, at least at Alton Station, are encouraged to help themselves.

There are gardens, not used to their full potential, people who wish to grow vegetables, but have no garden. Why not bring together the two, and share the produce?

In Geneva, under a scheme called foodscaping, neighbours agree what to grow, then share the surplus.

In Transition 2.0 is a wonderful mix of discussion and real world examples. If it contains one underlying message, it is that of hope, we do not have to tolerate the status quo, we are the 99%, we do not have to accept what is dictated to us by the 1%, when people, local communities, cooperate, put their mind to something, they can effect real and lasting change.

Moneteveglio illustrates where local communities need to go further. They need to seize control of their local councils, the local councils then become accountable to the local community, serve the local community, where we have participatory democracy, where the local people are directly involved in all the decision-making, and the role of local councillors then becomes reduced to one of accountability and scrutiny, ensuring what the local community wants is carried out.

This is a bottom up approach, not what we are seeing now, a top down approach, where corrupt councillors and officials in the pocket of Big Business and developers, impose unwanted schemes onto hapless local communities.

It is not for local communities to work with local councils, it is for local councils to work with local communities.

Note: Apologies for including the Question and Answer Session on the film, as a disaster, badly filmed, bad sound. An experienced film maker on stage, and yet no one had the intelligence to bring the microphones close to the speakers, or worse, people off camera who were completely inaudible.

A longer version of this article published on Medium with additional notes.

Transition Free Press

December 2, 2013
Transition Free Press - Winter 2013

Transition Free Press – Winter 2013

Who other than a madman would launch a new newspaper?

Who in not only today’s economic climate but in the climate for newsprint, when newspapers are losing money, would launch a new newspaper?

Local and national newspapers are losing money.

A downward spiral, less news, less frequent, less reason to buy, shrinking income, fewer resources for news gathering and quality journalism.

It is into this climate Transition Free Press has been launched. A real newspaper, real newsprint, not a digital newspaper, like the recently launched Guardian Australia.

Transition Free Press was launched this year as an experiment, a toe in the water, a pilot of four quarterly issues.

Transition Free Press has proved to at least be sustainable. Whether it will continue into 2014 will depend upon securing funding.

I came across Transition Free Press in The Barn in Farnham, one of their fifty plus distribution hubs.

Why print and distribute a newspaper, with all the risks involved? Why not be like the Huffington Post or Guardian Australia, on-line only?

A newspaper is shareable, and yes, on-line is shareable too. Indeed, I would go further, when you find something interesting on-line, be it Transition Free Press, this article, music, then please share, tweet, re-tweet, recommend.

Transition Free Press is quarterly, it is not transient like a daily newspaper, it contains useful information, thus more likely to be valued, kept for future reference.

So what is in it?

Articles on self-sufficiency, local communities, alternative energy, local economies, carbon reduction, protest, local currencies, sustainability, art, music.

The very first issue, what could be called a pilot for the pilot, came out last year to test the feasibility.

I have read Transition Free Press whilst in The Barn, and have been suitably impressed. At the weekend I found the latest edition, hot off the press.

The front page of the current winter 2013 edition, out now, has a front page lead story on protest. Taking the lead from comments on not voting and the need for revolution from Russell Brand, communities are taking the lead.

Activists staged a mass work out at COP19 Climate Talks in Poland last month. The talks had been hijacked by Big Coal, Big Oil, and other big carbon emitters and polluters. The point the activists made with an impromptu press conference outside the talks, was that we can no longer trust politicians, if we want change, we have to take action ourselves.

That is what Transition Heathrow did, they squatted derelict nursery gardens and brought them back into productive use, ran workshops. Even the local police reported they had a positive impact on the local community, with reductions in low level crime.

With the collapse of the Co-op Bank, and the unfolding scandal, whereto ethical banking, and was it so ethical at the Co-op Bank?

Payday loan sharks, are not only screwing those they have got their teeth into, they are draining money out of our poorest communities, communities that should be plugging the leaks and recycling money within the local economy.

An evaluation inspired by the Reconomy Project of the potential to ‘relocalise’ Lambeth’s economy … switching just 10% of the borough’s supermarket food spend to local retailers would release £37 million (and “money spent in independent local businesses can create 2-4 more times as much real value as money spent in chains”), and retrofitting housing stock with solid wall insulation could payback in 15 years and generate £100 million of local employment.

And yet, we see the opposite. The Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, has been practising ethnic cleansing of local businesses in Farnborough and Aldershot. Squandering £1 million on repaving Queensmead will not attract people to Farnborough, any more than wasting £15,000 on a free wifi scam, a scam that will collect personal data, in order that locals can be bombarded with spam e-mail and spam sms text messages. Neither will demolishing the c 1720s Tumbledown Dick for a Drive-Thru McDonald’s. The local economy will only benefit, when there are local shops and businesses to spend money in, local shops and businesses which then recycle money within the local economy.

The ConDem government, under pressure from the Big Six energy suppliers, are poised to axe or reduce the green and social levies on the Big Six, to reduce their commitment on green measures such as house insulation. Even if these levies were halved, at only 10% of the average bill, it would only see a reduction of 5%. On the other hand, if only 10% was knocked off the 90% of the bill the Big Six are responsible for, this would lead to a 9% cut in bills. The poor will save money if they use less fuel, they will use less fuel, we will all use less fuel, if our homes are better insulated. If we use less carbon-based fuel, we emit less greenhouse gases.

Money paid to the Big Six on fuel bills, is money drained straight out of the local economy. If we insulate, not only do we cut our fuel bills, reduce our greenhouse emission, that is money that is retained within the local economy, money, which if spent with local businesses, is money recycled within the local economy.

Transition Free Press is produced by a not-for-profit collective and supported, although not financed by, the Transition Network. You can help back the paper by signing up for an annual subscription, minimum £15 per year, though you can pay more if you wish.

You can also help, not only by buying a copy from a distribution hub, but chatting to your local indie coffee bar and similar local businesses, and suggesting they too become a distribution hub. It helps them, as they can bulk buy at a discount,and it helps them by bringing people into their coffee bar.

In a coffee bar, having a copy to read, or a pile on display helps. That is how I came across Transition Free Press in The Barn.

If there is not a distribution hub near you, you can find Transition Free Press on-line.

An edited version of a longer article published on Medium.

Is Osborne Inadvertently Re-Energising the UK’s Environmental Movement?

August 5, 2013
Balcombe frackoff protest

Balcombe frackoff protest

When George Osborne recently unveiled the world’s most generous tax breaks for shale gas extraction in the UK, in a desperate effort to kick start the shale industry here, he might have inadvertently sowed the seed for the largest environmental movement the UK has seen in decades.

He will have watched last week’s events in Balcombe with concern, in which local people, anti fracking groups and environmentalists joined together to protest against shale gas company’s Cuadrilla plan to drill a test well in a picturesque Sussex village.

The first test drillings for shale gas in the UK took place in 2011 in Blackpool. Following local earthquakes, the government ordered an environmental consultation which was then passed, leading to the resumption of more tests.

The birth of a movement

The UK anti-fracking movement effectively launched on 6th of August 2011, when the coalition group Frack Off unveiled a banner from Blackpool Tower protesting local testing. Several other groups have followed, often local in nature, facilitated with the support of Frack Off and other experienced mobilisers. The movement draws together a wide range different stakeholders, from environmentalists to advocates of the green economy and the large core of local people concerned about water contamination, localised earthquakes, chemical use, pressure on local infrastructure and the impact of local industrial activity on rural villages. It has also been reported that people are struggling to sell their houses in areas near suggested drill sites.

Implications for the Tories

The current protest could have considerable political implications for The Conservatives; Balcombe is in a deeply Conservative constituency, with some locals having voted Conservative their whole lives, and these people are now threatening to switch their vote unless the party changes its stance on fracking. They are also calling for more renewable energy.

Social commentary

In an editorial published on Monday, The Telegraph newspaper stated that the protestors in Balcombe would seemingly happily return the economy to pre industrial times; they should read their own environmental correspondent Louise Gray’s report on Balcombe in which she writes:

”Sarah Hirst, 37, a teacher, left with her young children as soon as the protest started.
She said she was scared to take part in protests before but felt so strongly she brought along three young children under seven. She said local people would be showing their anger at the Tories at the next general election. “At the last election I voted Tory but I have gone Green because of this.” Mrs Hirst said a wind farm comes down after 25 years, but a faulty well could leak decades afterwards without anyone knowing. “I would happily have a wind farm and happily support it – a lot of people involved would. It is not a blight on the countryside it is renewable energy in the long term,” she said.”

In other twisted developments, Lord Howell who also happens to be George Osborne’s father in law, has said that fracking should not be going on in the beautiful South of England where people live closely populated, but in the remoter areas of the North East. His comments were quickly condemned resulting in an apology, but he is not doing himself or his party any favors. Anyone who has followed the shale gas debate knows that it is in fact Lancashire in the North West that is estimated to have the biggest shale reserves. But his comments reflect an opinion that several in his party might share, which is that industrialisation should occur in the less afffluent North, away from the more affluent South (where most Conservatives live).

A controversial industry

The shale gas debate is only just starting in the UK; judging by the current protests, the industry’s hopes that they could conduct exploratory drilling away from the public eye have been dashed. Instead, communities across the UK worried about fracking are looking at Balcombe in admiration and mobilising anti fracking movements, ready to strike when Cuadrilla or other shale gas companies move into their communities.

Meanwhile, elsewhere the shale gas industry is facing scrutiny; in Poland, which holds the largest shale gas reserves in Europe investors are fleeing despite the government welcoming shale gas. And US filmmaker Josh Fox’s Gasland Part 2 has just been released; his first film Gasland kick-started the anti-fracking movement five years ago, and the follow-up will unveil yet more revelations about the dirty business of the shale gas industry. This, coupled with the scale of the mounting protests, must worry stakeholders of the UK shale gas industry.

The largest environmental mobilisation for decades is underway in the UK, due in part to the urgency of climate change but mainly driven by the threat of fracking. Its being directly fueled by by George Osborne’s and his allies in opening the door to an fantasy gas future that is far from a safe bet. While George Osborne promises tax breaks for shale gas consumers, energy prices are set to soar once again as we enter the autumn and winter. We should ask ourselves if shale really is necessary to keep our lights on or whether this is another move to make powerful corporations more money whilst the real cost to the consumers and the environment rises.

— Anders Lorenzen

Published in the Huffington Post.

Josh Fox on Gasland Part 2

August 5, 2013

Josh Fox, director of Gasland, talking on Democracy Now about Gasland Part 2.

Balcombe – why the Government must listen to the people

August 5, 2013

Earlier today I was in Balcombe, where local people are resisting attempts by Cuadrilla to begin exploratory drilling ahead of possible fracking. It was inspiring to see a local community displaying such determination to oppose a technology which has the potential to harm their local environment for decades to come, as well as undermine efforts to tackle the climate crisis. Despite the slightly odd comments reportedly made by the Energy Minister, the people I met didn’t live behind “rectory walls”, and their concerns went beyond “flaring at the end of the drive”. Many of them were local residents who told me this was the first time they had taken part in a protest and had been moved to take direct action because they’d exhausted all other means of making themselves heard. Around 85% of local residents are opposed to fracking, with a range of understandable concerns – backed up by evidence – including possible groundwater contamination, well leaks and high volumes of water use.

Throughout the debate on shale gas extraction, ministers have claimed to listen to these concerns, but justified pro-fracking policies, partly on the basis that the use of shale gas might mean lower energy bills. Yet leading energy industry consultants say it’s unlikely that shale gas extracted in the UK will have material impact on prices between now and 2025. Likewise, Deutsche Bank, Chatham House, and OFGEM are all warning that UK shale gas won’t bring down prices. And the International Energy Agency has forecast that natural gas prices will rise by 40% by 2020, even with an influx of cheap shale gas.

Those who are resisting what is happening at Balcombe and elsewhere are sometimes asked whether they would prefer to see wind turbines being built. The comparison is flawed for many reasons. For a start, communities faced with applications for fracking haven’t been given the opportunity to consider whether they might prefer clean energy instead. The planning guidance explicitly states “Mineral planning authorities should not consider demand for, or consider alternatives to, oil and gas resources when determining planning applications.” Yet polling continues to indicate that there is much greater public support for incentivisation of renewable energy technologies than there is for fracking.

Caroline Lucas at Balcombe

Caroline Lucas at Balcombe

The Government should listen, not least because there is a bigger picture here, alongside the genuine and valid concerns of local communities. It has been estimated that between 60 and 80 per cent of existing fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground if we are to have any chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change. Some of the UK’s leading climate scientists have warned that the widespread use of shale gas is quite simply incompatible with the Government’s international commitments to keep global warming below two degrees.

Planning guidance which makes life easier for mineral extractors, and the prospect of tax breaks for fracking companies, mean the odds are being skewed outrageously against renewable energy.

The Government is being extraordinarily short-sighted, and not just because it might lose votes in its traditional heartlands.

— Caroline Lucas

Fracking is bad for the environment, pollutes groundwater, puts more carbon in the form of CO2 and methane into the atmosphere.

When our corrupt politicians fail to listen, we have no choice that to take direct action.

A pity we do not have more politicians like Caroline Lucas MP. Contrast Caroline Lucas with Gerald Howarth MP, who when his constituents turned to him for help, to help save The Tumbledown Dick, stitched up a deal behind their backs with McDonald’s to demolish The Tumbledown Dick and turn it into a Drive-Thru McDonald’s.

Climate Camp – South Coast 2011

April 30, 2011

Resurrection for the Insurrection
23rd April — 1st May
Location: St. Anne’s School, Lewes

Imagine another world. A world where people matter, where the outstanding issues of the day, climate change, community resilience and workers rights are addressed and we can look forward to a more radical and sustainable future.

Imagined it? Good. Now come to the South Coast Climate Camp this Easter and help us build it.

The South Coast Climate Camp is popping up in Sussex to highlight the climate criminals along our coastline. We have drilling for oil in the South Downs National Park, an agrofuels plant proposed for Shoreham Harbour, proposed airport expansion and of course the incinerator in Newhaven.

All this climate criminality not only adds to the outrageous levels of greenhouse gases spewing into the atmosphere, it also despoils our National Parks and generally charming countryside. It ain’t right. Something needs to be done.

The South Coast Camp for Climate Action will take place from the Easter weekend through to the May Day celebrations somewhere on the beautiful South Downs in Sussex. Through living, eating and working together, we hope the camp will act as a positive catalyst for change, transforming both the camp community and the communities around it.

We aim to create a safe space where people can meet, share ideas, plan actions and then go do them.

At the end of the week we shall, as tradition dictates be taking part in a mass action. This will form part of Brighton’s May Day celebrations where many direct action groups from around the country are converging in the seaside resort for a very special day of direct action.

Workshops are invited from, UK Uncut, Plane Stupid, SolFed, Smash EDO, No Borders, Grow Heathrow, Transition Towns, the Rebel Clown Army and many more. Skill shares will be held on permaculture, guerilla gardening, workers rights and tactics of resistance, cooking, building rocket stoves, bee keeping & community organising: among other stuff.

We will share the knowledge and experience we have gathered over many years with local community groups to leave a lasting legacy: a truly radicalised community. The camp itself is just the sowing of the seed.

Visit http://brightonclimateaction.org.uk

Produced by “You and I Films”
http://www.youandifilms.com

Well done Climate Camp for seizing this site.

Anti-Nuclear Energy Protest – Boycott EDF Energy

April 21, 2011
nuclear disaster area

nuclear disaster area

‘I do not believe a single word that issues from the mouth of a single spokesperson for the nuclear industry.’ — JONATHON PORRITT, June 2010.

A couple of weeks ago, campaigners brought rush hour traffic to a standstill to protest against EDF Energy’s plans to build a new generation of nuclear power stations in the UK. All four lanes of the A302 outside EDF Energy’s headquarters in Grosvenor Place — which just happens to run alongside the gardens of Buckingham Palace — were sealed off shortly after 8am using 14-foot tripods. The cleared zone was then declared a ‘nuclear disaster area’.

Campaign group, Boycott EDF, says the energy giant is spearheading a ‘nuclear renaissance’ which could see the construction of at least ten new nuclear reactors — a move spokeswoman, Bella Benson, claims will spell disaster for the UK.

EDF has spent a massive amount of money marketing itself as an environment-friendly company,” says Benson. “But the truth is that it’s planning to lumber us with an outdated form of energy that is incredibly dangerous, extremely expensive and completely unnecessary. As the company’s HQ Is opposite Buckingham Palace, it would be fitting to call their plan a right, royal rip-off.

EDF has already caused great concern – even before construction of ‘new nuclear’ has started. An independent report published last year found that land designated for EDF’s two new mega-reactors at the Hinkley Point nuclear power plant in Somerset is heavily contaminated with enriched uranium. But EDF has dismissed the report. “With such a hazardous form of energy, best practice must be observed at every stage. We find EDF’s attitude shocking,”

Cheaper, greener alternative strategies have been put forward by respected organisations including Greenpeace, the Sustainable Development Commission and the New Economics Foundation.

Says Benson, “The billions earmarked for new nuclear power stations should be invested in further developing safe forms of energy such as renewables and the type of district heating plants (combined heat and power plants) that can be run on biogas. It’s a scandal that there hasn’t been an informed public debate about this issue.”

The campaign is urging customers of EDF Energy to say ‘no to new nuclear’ by switching to other energy providers. It is also asking the public to boycott events and attractions – such as the London Eye – sponsored by the company.

There are alternatives. Nuclear, as we have seen from the tragedy in Japan, is not a green alternative.

Germany has said no to new nuclear power stations. It is time for the UK to also say no.

Edit by You and I Films.

Activists blockade EDF in London
Soft Energy Paths
Zero Carbon by 2030
How to save people in Eastern Japan
Wishes and cranes with love

Earthship 101

January 1, 2011

Earthship n. 1. passive solar home made of natural and recycled materials 2. thermal mass construction for temperature stabilization. 3. renewable energy & integrated water systems make the Earthship an off-grid home with little to no utility bills.

Biotecture n. 1. the profession of designing buildings and environments with consideration for their sustainability. 2. A combination of biology and architecture.

Tires are not toxic in an earthship. They are hazardous in a pile… Tires are filled with rammed earth, then plastered over. We have had numerous tests and been doing this for 40 years. Not ONE complaint, problem, rumor or ANYTHING in 40 years. David Wright does not know what he is talking about.

Also see

Soft Energy Paths

Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city

Natural Capitalism

Zero Carbon by 2030

October 31, 2010
Bolivian Ambassador Maria de Souviron

Bolivian Ambassador Maria de Souviron

I was on my way up to London on the train to Zero Carbon by 2030 and the news was coming in fast, Vodafone stores were dropping like flies. A good start to the day! [see Nationwide shut down of Vodafone stores]

Zero Carbon by 2030 organised by Campaign against Climate Change was a look at how we get to an economy free of carbon by 2030. We have a window of opportunity of five, maybe ten years, before it will be too late. How do we get there?

I missed the introduction on the science, but as I am already very familiar with all the positive feedbacks I probable did not miss anything of importance.

I caught the tail end of Stephen Murphy from Zero Carbon Britain talking about how they intend to get there. From what I heard it sounded very fuzzy and not well thought through. All become veggies and yes we can still fly if we plant lots of crops for biofuels! [see Sustainable Energy]

Ben Brangwyn talked of Transitions Towns. He gave two examples from opposite ends of the spectrum, Totnes in Devon and Heathrow. How do we oppose a new supermarket? Talk to planners, take direct action or set up an alternative food network so people do not have to go to the supermarket? At Heathrow a derelict site had been brought back into food production and it had brought about community involvement. The police had seen a 50% reduction in crime rate. David ‘Big Society’ Cameron please note.

We will have to change to adapt to the future. If we start to change now, future shocks will have less impact, we will be more resilient.

I have mixed feelings re Transitions Towns. Nothing wrong per se, growing local food etc. is all a step in the right direction but does it give a warm cuddly feeling that we have done our bit? Ben Barngwyn admitted the jury was out on this. On the other hand if it makes people more political aware, empowers them, then yes, it is a good direction as nothing is going to happen without direct action, we can forget politicians and big business doing the right thing. [see Transition towns]

Vicki Hird from FoE talked of the need to restructure agriculture to be less energy intensive. She urged everyone to support the campaign Join the Moovement.

John Stewart from Airport Watch told us that even for cheap flights, it was the rich that were using the flights not the poor, it was not the myth that is often peddled that is is bringing aviation for all. The rich benefit but it is the poor that suffer, especially the poor in the Third World. We are suffering second-hand noise, second-hand pollution.

Aviation has to pay its way. It is not as easy though as John and others would have us believe to slap on taxes. It is international treaties that give aviation tax exemptions. We can though be creative. Air Passenger Duty is ill-conceived as the airlines simply pass it on to their passengers. It should be a tax per flight. The worst offenders pay the highest tax. This would be a combination of emissions, nuisance and loading factors. There is then an incentive to improve.

The most obscene offender by far is the business aviation at Farnborough Airport. Average of 2.5 passengers per plane. A Boeing Business Jet is a re-configured Boeing 737.

Deepak Rughani from Biofuelwatch was a breath of fresh air. He said there was too much focus on carbon and we were ignoring ecosystem destruction. That if we destroyed the Gaian control mechanisms it would make no difference were we to reduce carbon emissions, reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere as these targets have no meaning if our Gaian control mechanisms are destroyed.

Plantations have about 4% the carbon of pristine rain forests. Every time we destroy a living species, we destroy part of the complex web of life with unknown and often unknowable consequences.

Deepak Rughani attacked the presentation earlier suggesting we could reach Zero Carbon Britain by growing crops for aviation fuel! Sadly there are some folk living in cloud cuckoo land. But most of the NGOs are not listening.

There are plans to import wood chips as biofuels. This means forest destruction in Canada and the Third World. We also see human rights abuses associated with the production of biofuels.

Land should be used for Food not Fuel.

There is no such thing as sustainable palm oil production. The land could be used for growing crops or restored to forest.

For years I have been highlighting biofuels is bad. Biowaste yes, but not the growing of crops as fuels. It has to be seen as a sick joke when earlier in the week Rainforest Action Network were promoting sustainable palm oil plantations. But then RAN also supports the logging of primary forests.

Wood burning stoves, associated with traditional coppicing of ancient woodland improves the biodiversity of the woodland. Picking up dead wood from the woodland floor is destroying the lifeforms within the dead wood.

Bolivian Ambassador Maria de Souviron said the poor countries were not going to be bullied into an international agreement that left them worse off. Global temperature rises had to be limited to no more than one degree centigrade. In Bolivia there was a grass roots movement Mother Earth. The Cochabamba Declaration argues for a target of limiting temperature rise to no more than one degree centigrade and a maximum limit of 300 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere.

Speaking to Maria de Souviron afterwards I asked what brought an ambassador to such an event. She said she was only too happy to lend her support as climate change effected the poorest countries. Some countries would disappear or be devastated by rising sea levels. In Bolivia the glaciers would melt. In the winter they would have floods, in the summer drought.

A trade unionist gave the trade union viewpoint. We could create a million green jobs. But we should not as he asked, stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the picket line with Luddite Trade Unionists to protect jobs in dirty industries, but we will support the workers in the call for the creation of green jobs.

Andrew Simms from The New Economics Foundation spoke of the limits to growth. We live on a finite world with finite resources. We are citizens, not consumers. In one day he counted over 400 adverts calling for us to consume, but only three that asked for good behaviour from us as citizens. The news links High Street spending with the state of the economy. NEF has launched a programme The Great Transition.

Alexis Rowell from Camden CAN and 10 by 10 Campaigning forward told us of what is happening in Camden. Council vehicles powered by fuel from biowaste, education of Camden planning officials on what green means, buildings that recycle grey water, green roofs. In Wales there was initiatives with New Economics Foundation on the use of well-being indices. As a Libdem councillor he was very outspoken against the Libdems in the coalition government.

The one aspect of our energy use that was not discussed was embedded energy.

Caroline Lucas who had hoped to be there sent her apologies. She was attending a rally on cuts in Brighton.

John McDonnell was due to speak but sent a video message with his apologies.

In the evening we had entertainment. Poetry and music. Songs from Seize the Day. An amazing guy on guitar with another guy on violin. A lovely poem on the earth shedding tears (the words please).

There was a meet up in a pub the Cock Tavern in Kings Cross later but the map was illegible, many people had gone home.

I called it a day. I had a chat with Shannon, lead singer in Seize the Day, she signed a copy of Standing Strong, only released that day, mine was number five she told me. The first track, Boys on the Balcony, which Seize the Day performed live, is about the Vestas workers who last year occupied their wind turbine factory on the Isle of Wight to try and prevent its closure.

Nearby in the back streets at the side of Euston Station are some very good Indian restaurants. I had a dosa, two glasses of water, then caught the overcrowded train home.

There is to be a big (or hoped to be big) march in December I would question the timing and the futility of such a march. Who is wanting to march on a cold December day? What is the purpose of marching on Parliament on a Saturday when no one is there? Lessons are not being learnt. Marches attract zero publicity and do not achieve anything. It is direct action that achieves change, that gets publicity.

The suffragettes learnt a hundred years ago that marches gets you nowhere. Change comes through direct action, through confronting those in power, by making the status quo costly.

Also see

Climate Rush ‘do a Banksy’ on HM Treasury

Yes Men hijack Chevron media campaign

Crude Awakening shut down Coryton Oil Refinery

Gaia’s prayer

Transitions towns

Nationwide shut down of Vodafone stores

Funny Weather

Sustainable Energy — without the hot air

Soft Energy Paths

Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city

Natural Capitalism